Craft & Design Woodworking Workshop
Add Amazing Textures to Your Wood Projects


I can’t imagine too many Make: readers looking at these lovely wood textures and not thinking about how they much incorporate them into a future project. I never would have thought of using a nail head to make a texture, or taking a screw to a wood piece, or a round file to the edge of a board. But I might now.

Here are a few of my favorite techniques taken from a piece on Canadian Woodworking. The original article includes 12 different techniques, including using a router, an angle grinder, a nail set, and more.

Rotary Tool


Best Use: To create a subtle, even texture on flat or round surfaces. Texturing large areas will be time consuming. Though results depend on bit selection, this technique works well on most species.

What to do: Systematically move the bit over the workpiece, creating small cuts directly beside one another.

Effect: Bit selection will determine the type of texture left, but a tight, simple texture will likely be the result.

Screw or Lag Bolt


Best Use: Works best on softer woods, but can be used on medium density species as well. Works great near an edge of a workpiece to produce a border as the head of the screw or bolt will not permit it to be being used anywhere but the edge. Removing the head is also an option.

What to do: Hold the screw or lag bolt in one hand and a hammer in the other. Be sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the hammer, as you will likely be holding the screw or bolt fairly close to where the blows occur. With one finger referencing off the edge of the workpiece, slowly move the screw or bolt along, using quick hammer blows to press the threads into the wood. You will likely notice small flats on the threads, where the hammer is hitting the threads. Keep those flats up or the textured marks will vary slightly.

Effect: Small marks add slight texture to a surface. You can change the effect by holding the screw or bolt at an angle to the edge, as well as striking the screw or bolt near the center or one end.

Cold Chisel


Best Use: Works great in most woods to create a textured border, or can be used to texture larger surfaces.

What to do: Used similarly to the nail set and awl, except the grooves work best when oriented parallel with the grain of the wood. Cross-grain grooves have a tendency to split the grain and cause splintering. Sharpening the tool may improve crossgrain work. Strike lightly for almost imperceptible results, or heavily for deeper, more pronounced grooves.

Effect: Narrow but long triangular grooves are left in the woods surface.

Carving Gouge


Best Use: As long as the gouge is sharpened correctly, it will work nicely in most woods. Heavily figured or very hard woods may pose a challenge, especially if the gouge isn’t extremely sharp. Very soft woods will also crush with a less-than-razor-sharp gouge. Works quick enough to cover large surfaces in a reasonable time, especially with larger gouges.

What to do: Though passes generally work best crossgrain, working parallel to the grain is possible with care. If an extra-deep groove is needed, multiple passes may be required. With firm footing, use both hands to control the gouge. Practice will give a good feel for how to produce the size and depth of groove you’re looking for.

Effect: Shallow grooves can feel quite delicate, while deep grooves are a very dramatic addition to a project.

Round File


Best Use: On corners of most woods. Non-porous woods generally splinter less, but if care is taken porous woods can be worked. Not great for high-use edges, as the wood remaining on the edge can be susceptible to damage.

What to do: With the file in both hands, guide it into the corner of the wood at a 45º angle. Don’t push too hard or you will likely chip the area. I find it’s best to ease the edge before adding texture to it, as it will be less likely to splinter. Try to space the notches as evenly as possible.

Effect: A row of notches is created on the edge of a workpiece.

You can see the rest of the textures with more details and photos in the original article on Canadian Woodworking.


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn